Well, since I have decided to make my own compost this year (most likely in the kitchen with some sort of kitchen composter) the next step for me was to learn a little more. I want to know how to make the stuff, and what kind of kitchen waste I can use to make the best compost tea for my garden. It turns out that you can compost a whole lot of things.
Basically, all vegetables and fruits are great for composting, which is kind of obvious, but I didn’t know that you can also compost egg shells, coffee grounds, and used pizza boxes. If you are going through the process outside, you can also use some yard waste like leaves along with grass clippings. When you do that, you should try to mix fruit and veggie waste and grass clippings — called “green waste” since it is alive and fresh when you throw it out -with dead leaves, dry twigs, and unbleached paper towels — called “brown waste” as it is dead and stale when you throw it out. (Green leaves are green waste, by the way). Having green and brown materials next to each other speeds up the decomposition. If you are starting in the fall, after you rake up your fallen leaves and pine needles you can leave them in biodegradable paper bags.
As important as knowing what to put in your compost bin or pile, it’s also good to know what not to toss in. As a rule of thumb, keep out anything from an animal – bones, fats and dairy products. In addition to making a terrible stink, these products will attract undesirable attention from local wildlife (in my neck of the woods that means coyotes).
In addition to knowing WHAT to compost, it is also important to know how the process works. In a nutshell, composting is the human manipulation of the decomposition process. It is a natural process that will allow your organic waste to decompose with the help of oxygen-breathing aerobic microbes. The human input consists of mixing yard and household organic waste in a pile or bin and providing conditions that encourage decomposition. I have chosen to use a kitchen composter, but if you want to generate compost outside, composting tumblers are very popular as they allow you to hold high volumes of compost, raised off of the ground and they allow you to turn the mixture on a regular basis. This tumbler looks like a good one: Compost Tumbler
So now you’ve got lots of kitchen waste (melon rinds, carrot peelings, tea bags, apple cores, banana peels – almost everything that cycles through your kitchen) and garden waste (grass clippings, dead leaves, fallen branches) all ready to be composted and used as a nutrient-rich food for the garden. Some also suggest diverting 25% of your paper waste from the normal recycling stream into your composting efforts. Now what? If all of that material is well mixed in a pile, things will start happening automatically. A good rule of thumb is to throw in a handful of good garden soil to kick-start the new pile with living organisms. As mentioned before, a healthy compost pile needs a balanced diet of greens and browns as well as moisture to keep the composting process active. Keep in mind, too much moisture can leave the mixture smelly and soggy, so for folks like me in the Pacific Northwest, a bin or tumbler will make life a lot easier. This one is on wheels: Compost Tumbler